Friday, December 5, 2014

Voices unheard: Black Lives Matter

I want you to see the picture at the right, and I know some of you will not like it. I know some of you believe that this has no place in Church or on a church-related blog. I expect I will hear from you. I hope I do. Let's talk.

I also think we need to be aware that the Church is not an island unto itself. We are very much a part of the world and culture around us. We need to hear voices that we seldom hear -- especially the young and people of color.

This picture is of Kelly Carson, one of our Canterbury undergraduate students who has been very involved in undergraduate-led social justice movements over the past year at the University of Virginia. This picture shows her at the rally led by the UVA Black Student Alliance Wednesday evening after the decision not to indict the police officer in the death of Eric Garner in New York.

The rally started at the Mad Bowl, went through the libraries and several other buildings before going to Carrs Hill. The rally was so loud in Alderman Library that people came in from all the other rooms and floors to see what was going on. The crowd is behind the photographer in this picture. You can learn more at #blacklivesmatter.

In the Tuesday evening discussion this week at our Canterbury student group, our students talked about how the young people leading are leading a new movement are like John the Baptist -- "a voice of one calling in the wilderness."

I also know how hard it is to be a cop. I spent years covering the criminal justice system as a reporter. I've seen the guilty get off and the innocent go to prison. I've spent hours and hours on "ride alongs." I've been shot at, and I helped rescue a wounded California Highway Patrolman in a vicious shoot-out with bank robbers. I very much get it that those who put on a badge don't know if they are coming home at night. I know that cops can do everything right, but in an instant, everything can go very wrong. I've lost three friends who were police officers who were shot to death in the line of duty. Each was a dedicated public servant who did as much off duty to help people as they did on duty. I am thankful every day for cops.

And I also know the system needs to change, that police departments need to work harder at listening to voices seldom heard and connect with their communities. Firepower will not solve our most intractable problems of poverty, race, gangs and drugs.

I don't have public policy solutions for you, and I am not sure the Church is very good at that anyway. But I do believe we have an enormous role in changing the culture, and in being voices of reconciliation, love and courage. If the Church cannot hear the angry and the lost, we have no reason to be.

In the weeks ahead, we need to create a safe forum for conversation and listening, where no one will be demonized for sharing their experiences and opinions. We know how to do that. I hope you will join me in this effort.

Finally, I ran across this quote the other day from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said this in 1968 shortly before he was killed. His words, I believe, still apply:
"It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard."
By James Richardson, Fiat Lux

No comments: